Over the weekend, I was waiting in line at a local store, when I looked across the room and spotted a familiar face. A warm little flip of excitement went through me. I know her, I thought excitedly.
You guys, it was Medusa. A Halloween decoration of Medusa.
I’d like to say I was terribly sleep deprived, but I was actually pretty well rested. I’m just apparently even nerdier than I thought.
Anyway, it was a long line, so I had plenty of time to think about Medusa. My old friend Medusa, I guess. But, on the bright side, it has spawned a new occasional recurring topic for my blog: Imaginary Interviews. Let’s imagine that we’re all sitting in expensive, squashy chairs and listening to Medusa chat about how a sibling rivalry irrevocably changed her life, and how she dealt with it.
Tell me about your relationship with Athena.
Athena and I do have a very complicated history. You might say our disagreements are legendary! Medusa’s laughter hisses through her teeth in a serpentine fashion. I’m sure you know the story, how I was one of her priestesses, but then her brother Poseidon’s wandering eye turned to me…Athena was really upset about it. On one hand, I don’t blame her – I did swear a vow of celibacy, as part of being a priestess, and that was over. But Poseidon is a spoiled god, you know? I’m just being honest. His entitlement is only a step below Zeus’, and he’s really charming when he wants to be, too. Anyway, one doesn’t simply decline a god. Look at what happened to poor Daphne. I didn’t want to be a tree. I was too young and beautiful. I can say it now without sounding conceited, can’t I? I look completely different now, obviously. I had soft golden hair and nice clear skin. My eyes were green. I was a bit vain about them, even back then. Sometimes I think that’s why Athena made my skin greenish. The snake-hair was quite difficult to get used to. Sometimes the snakes writhe around while I’m trying to sleep, even now in the Underworld.
I imagine the fact that your gaze turned people to stone must have been the worst of the new changes.
Oh yes. But I sort of got to like it after a while. I know it sounds strange. But it gave me such a feeling of power! That’s why I forgave Athena eventually. And she forgave me. We had a pretty emotional reunion about it, and it was extra nice for me because, of course, Athena was immune to my gaze. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work now, since I’m dead and mostly incorporeal, but I’m careful to face away from live people just in case. Medusa’s voice grows wistful. It would be nice to know for sure. Maybe I should test it one day, on someone really annoying.
Would you mind elaborating on the feeling of power?
I’ll try. I’m sure you understand the transformation made me strong. It gave me a feeling of near-invincibility, although eventually Perseus proved otherwise. I wanted to resent him, but to be honest, I was getting a bit tired of everything by then. I think Athena knew that, and I like to believe it’s partly why she supported his quest.
It sounds almost as if you viewed Athena’s role in your transformation as more of a gift than a curse.
Yes, although I had periods where I didn’t see it that way. Athena gave me the ability to ensure that no one ever touched me against my will again. Unfortunately, no one ever touched me with my will again, either. But the thing is, Athena and I remained close. Snakes have always been associated with her, and she gave that symbolism to me, through my hair. In turn, she used my image sometimes. It’s on her shield in the Iliad, and Agamemnon sometimes carried a shield with my face on it as well. My face was seen as a kind of protective amulet, and there are lots of Greek and Roman artifacts depicting me as well. It’s quite flattering. Even nowadays, pictures of me are everywhere, like on the Versace logo.
I got a bit off topic there – I just love that I haven’t been forgotten, even though I’ve been dead so long – but as I was saying, Athena and I are very close. If you want to think of it in familial terms, it’s almost like we’re sisters, because of our similarities. In more scholarly terms – and I know you history nerds like to be scholarly – it’s like we’re two aspects of the same power. My snake hair represents Athena’s connection to snakes, and the ability of my gaze to turn to stone is a reflection of Athena’s intense, owl-like stare. Once, Athena even made flames shoot from her eyes, and you can’t tell me that wasn’t a twist on what had become my signature talent.
Is it true that your blood had both healing and poisonous properties?
Yes, and I was just about to bring that up, since my blood reflected the duality between us, too. Blood from my left was a deadly poison, but from the right, it could cure and even resurrect. Athena certainly didn’t slack off when she transformed me! Later, she gave some of my blood-types to Asclepius, who was a great healer. He was quite careful not to mix it up, but Zeus got angry that he was resurrecting so many people and killed him. Typical. Medusa rolls her eyes and her snakes hiss derisively.
It’s a bit of a surprise that you have such an optimistic outlook on what happened to you, but a pleasant one. Thanks so much for the chat.
A lot of people think so, but I think my legacy is good proof that it worked out all right in the end. No one even remembers my two actual sisters anymore – and they were immortal. I wasn’t, until the transformation. Isn’t that unfair? Anyway, thanks for the interview. I can’t wait to brag about it to Helen of Troy about it. We walk together through Hades’ realm every week. It’s quite fun to see how many of the deceased are surprised to see us together – the conventionally beautiful and the gorgeously grotesque side by side. The double takes are almost as good as turning them to stone.